Prayer can be beautiful in more ways than one. Not only is there spiritual beauty in the act of prayer, there is also beauty in the prayer aids available. The Dominican Sisters of Saint Cecilia Congregation have joined with Saint Benedict Press to release A Short Guide to Praying as a Family: Growing Together in Faith and Love Each Day. This book succeeds in joining prayer and stained glass resulting in a stunningly, beautiful volume.
From the inside jacket sleeve: “Praying together not only enriches family life but also leads the Catholic family towards its primary goal: the holiness and salvation of each member. This wonderful book provide a simple and easy-to-implement plan for family prayer. Arranged successively according to the basic stages of prayer, A Short Guide to Praying as a Family allows each family to progress step by step from one level of prayer to the next. Beautiful stained-glass images invite you to enter the mystery of each prayer and give glory to God as a family.”
The book itself is arranged in phases. As you progress through the phases the prayers become more involved and promote deeper growth in prayer. Each phase consists of various prayers that are followed by a number of pages explaining each prayer. These serve as a good refresher for adults who may already be familiar with the prayer and can be used with children to help them understand the meaning of each.
The phases are as follows:
Phase One: Basic Vocal Prayers consists of The Sign of the Cross, The Our Father, The Hail Mary and The Glory Be.
Phase Two: Making Your Home a Sacred Place leads off by discussing how to create a sacred place for prayer in your home. This is followed by The Morning Offering, Grace at Meals, family bedtime prayers, a section on family meetings, praying with your spouse and the family rosary.
Phase Three: Advancing in the Life of Prayer continues the forward progression of the family’s life in prayer. Divided into two sections it begins with Prayer Outside the Home. The prayers included are the Angel of God, Prayer to St. Michael and a prayer for use before sporting events. The second section for this phase is Preparing for the Sacraments. This section is very well done and contains some valuable insight on The Mass, Confession, communion and the use of holy water.
Phase Four: The Power of Prayer goes even deeper covering intercessory prayer, offering sacrifices, the divine mercy chaplet and eucharistic adoration.
Phase Five: Making Your Life a Prayer rounds out the book nicely by touching upon living the virtues, aspirations and even more ways to pray. These consist of seventeen more prayers and practices that the family can participate in together.
As I mentioned earlier the stained glass pictures included in the book are gorgeous. They really set off each prayer. Literally ever page includes some size of stained glass window, some as small insets and others as full page pictures. To shed some light on the history and significance of stained glass windows the book closes with an article by Dr. Denis McNamara entitled The Stained Glass Tradition.
Whether experienced prayer warriors or a family not sure how or where to get started, all can benefit from this book. Ones prayer life is an important foundation for our spiritual lives and can be accomplished in many ways. The family, as the domestic church, can play a key role in helping each other form a solid prayer life. It is important to remember that no one is perfect and everyone has room for improvement….you are not alone. The Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia have given Catholic families everywhere a gift with this book, one that we should gladly accept and use until the prayer seed that is planted grows into a mighty habit that passes from generation to generation. I would like to close this review with the following from the foreword.
“Family life is so busy these days, and many demands are made on our time, yet this is precisely what makes praying together so important. When God is at the center of our family life, all out other priorities fall into place. We put God first, and our spouse and children next. Extended family and work follow after these. Children learn to put their brothers and sisters before their friends, and to put attending Mass before other activities. When your family prays together, you are not only putting God at the center of your family, but also showing your children how to enter into a personal relationship with Him so that He becomes a companion and friend throughout life.”
When He is your friend how can you go wrong? He is the only one who will be at your side everyday through everything. It’s never too late to begin that personal relationship with God. A Short Guide to Praying as a Family gives us the tools to start down that path today. Take advantage of it……it will change your life.